Summer Interns Take on Lunch-2-Go

Hello! My name is Megan and I’m a Marketing and PR intern at the House. Recently the summer interns had the opportunity to make Lunch-2-Go for the families here. We wanted to share our experience with you here on the blog!

If you aren’t familiar with what Lunch-2-Go is, it’s a program that provides healthy brown bag to-go lunches for our guests. The goal of the program is to eliminate both the worry and the cost of a lunch for families that have to travel back and forth to the hospital, while giving them an enjoyable healthy meal. We’re able to provide this program because of a generous grant through Northwestern Mutual Foundation, which means we can purchase everything we need for our volunteer groups who prepare lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Last year alone there were 172 different groups that made Lunch-2-Go.

As we chopped fruit and vegetables and rolled three different kinds of wraps, families and other volunteers stopped by to chat about what we were making. Everyone in the House was genuinely interested in what we were doing and we struck up some good conversations about the best burrito wrapping techniques and what’s the best veggie to pair with hummus.

Rhea, the Events and Development intern, and I talked about how we need to start making our own grocery lists match the ingredients needed for recipes because they were such good inventive ideas for meals. “I was really happy doing it. I love to cook, but this food was a little more special than something I would have made just for myself,” Rhea said. We strive to make every meal special for the families staying at the House.

Even though preparing lunch made me more than a little hungry, it was still a satisfying experience. It’s nice to do things every once in awhile that have a more of a direct impact on the family’s lives, because sometimes the work we do as interns might be more behind the scenes and we don’t always get to interact with families every day.

Megan, the Family Service and Volunteer Management intern, talked about how gratifying it was to see all of our hard work be appreciated, “I thought it was crazy that when I came in the next day all the food was gone! It looks like they enjoyed it.”

This was a wonderful experience and we’re all looking forward to the next one! If you’re interested in helping make a meal for our families check out the different opportunities we have here or contact Chyna Witzke, our Family Meal Program Coordinator.

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Program Focus: Hospitality Bags

We all know the feeling of unpacking your bag when away from home and realizing that you forgot something. We want to prevent families from having to worry about such small but essential necessities. Instead of juggling their hospital schedule and figuring out when they have time to make a run to the store, RMHC provides travel size helping hands right when they get here.

Every time a family checks into the Ronald McDonald House there is a hospitality bag waiting for them in their room. Each bag is filled with basic necessities that make the transition into their stay at the House smoother. We want our families to feel more at home during their time here.

Some of the basic things that go into the bags include toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, mouthwash, lotion and so much more! One of the biggest surprises included in every bag is a new stuffed animal. Sometimes this little stuffed toy is what a child looks forward to when they’re heading to the hospital.

Recently, we started a campaign on Facebook to try and collect 100 stuffed animals in the month of July. We were so excited to see people enthusiastically respond and promise to start to gather stuffed animals to put into our “Zoo”!

Because we give out these bags with every check-in, every single day, our need for these product is never ending. If you’re interested in helping families during their stay with us please consider donating new stuffed animals or travel size toiletries.

Here at RMHC, we are so lucky to have generous supporters who continue to help provide the House with items that are perfect for hospitality bags!  With your donations we can keep families close and have a little pick-me-up ready and waiting for them when they arrive.

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The RMH Secret Garden has a New Tree!

A generous, garden-loving, dedicated donor gave us a Ginkgo biboba, or “Jade Butterflies” tree. We couldn’t be more excited or grateful!

Ginkgo is a deciduous conifer, the only surviving member of a group of plants believed to have inhabited the Earth 200 million years ago, and remained almost unchanged. Ginkgo is one of the world’s most distinctive and elegant plants. Ours is a dwarf cultivar with rich green, bi-lobed shaped leaves suggesting its nickname “Jade Butterflies”. Our tree is a male, which means it has greenish catkin blooms in spring and uniformly yellow foliage in fall. We think our tree is six years old, according to our Wachtel Tree Science friend, Jake Kubisiak, who planted it for us. This cultivar is slow growing and thought to reach a height of 4-6 feet in 10 years. Our tree’s new home is the sunny side of our House across from the play set.

The Ginkgo tree is an example of a plant species which is being saved from extinction by botanist and preserved. Thought to be non-existent, Ginkgos were found in a mountainous region of China and moved to temple gardens a thousand years ago. Eventually the trees were propagated and made their way around the world, coming to Europe in the late 1700’s.

Ginkgos are resistant to air pollution, diseases and pests. They are doing well as a city tree in the temperate zones of the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

In Family Garden Education, our weekly RMH garden class with our families and staff, we talk about other ‘living fossil’ plants in the Secret Garden. We have a Mesozoic Garden inhabited by dinosaurs who lived among these during the Jurassic Era. We have Norfolk pines, ferns, horsetails, cycads and mosses. Other ‘living fossil’ plants in our Secret Garden are Yews and a Magnolia, one of the first blooming plants appearing 100 million years ago.

Karla and Shalynn have measured the height of our “Jade Butterflies” and wish the little tree well!

Our Ginkgo connects us to the history of our planet and reminds us of the legacy we inherited and the legacy we will leave.
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Ann Phillips is an University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener Volunteer and has been the lead gardener for the Ronald McDonald House Secret Garden team of 20 MGVs since its first season in 2002. As a retired Wauwatosa Public Library Children’s Librarian she brings books and games to our Family Garden Education Programs where all ages, families and staff, come together to learn more about the Garden and all that nature gives us.

 

SUMMERFEST logo

See You at Summerfest!

Nothing quite represents the height of summer fun in Milwaukee like Summerfest kicking off! This year the musical extravaganza is eleven days long from June 29th to July 3rd, and then from July 5th to 10th.

This year the musical acts are more diverse than ever! Some of the big headliners are Paul McCartney, Luke Bryan, Weezer and Panic! At the Disco, Pitbull, Selena Gomez and so many more!

We hope that you’re gearing up for a rockin’ time because we’ll be rollin’ in right along with you! The Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) will have a tent near the water fountain at the Mid-Gate where you can make a donation, spin our prize-wheel and win wonderful McDonald’s Coupons!

Last year we raised over $7000 to support our mission from your generosity at Summerfest and we want to do it again.

People travel from all over the world to experience Summerfest, just like they come from all over the world to stay at our House. Taking care of guest families is so important to us. It’s a chance for us to keep families together while they go through tough times. Summerfest is your chance to help!
So grab some tickets and get ready to hang by the Lakefront, eat great food, enjoy the music and visit us at our tent at Summerfest!

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Thank You Dads

We hope that you were able to celebrate Father’s Day with your wonderful fathers, father figures and male mentors who have touched your life.

Dads are often the unsung heroes who do so much for a family. They’re mentors, coaches, confidants and teachers. Father’s Day is the one day every year where we get to stop and recognize all the Dads for being there in big and small ways every day.

The dads at our House are an important part of the glue that keeps the families we serve strong while their child is receiving treatment at a local hospital. That strength and dedication is needed each and every day as we keep families close, when home is very far away.

Junior and his son Daniel, 4, know what it’s like to be separated from the rest of the family. Daniel was diagnosed with HLH  when he was three months old and still needs doctor visits every week or so.

“Mom works in Appleton so she commutes back and forth when she can, otherwise we stay apart.” Junior said.

Junior travels to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) with his son whenever Daniel needs treatment.

“I don’t know how we could ever make it work without RMHC. Our family would be apart even more, we would have to leave at 5:00 a.m. to get to the appointments on time even in the middle of the winter. It would not be possible.” Junior said.

With a dad’s support and RMHC’s services, families can stay united even when they’re apart.

Instead of celebrating your dad only one day a year, try to show him some love today, tomorrow and every day. So dads, even if you don’t hear it all the time, thanks for all that you do and thank you for being you.

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Your Spare Change Has a Big Impact

Pulling around the McDonald’s drive-thru is not a typical time for contemplation. The only thing you might be thinking about is how satisfying this food is going to be or what TV show you’re going to catch up on tonight. As you pay for your order you glance down and see a sign and a donation box.

You toss your change into the box and then pull up to the next window. As you wait for your food that little red box is stuck in your head. 

Honestly, what good did your change just do? You probably could have added those quarters and nickels into the ever growing pile in your cup holder. Maybe your change collection could come in handy one day.

This is where the big question comes in: does your spare change really matter?

The answer? It matters more than you think.

When someone places change into a McDonald’s Canister it works to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities  Eastern Wisconsin® (RMHC). To us and the families that we serve, every penny counts.

That seemingly little donation has a bigger impact than you might think. Your change helps change a family’s life.

Between the 27 McDonald’s owners and operators that partner with the RMHC here in Eastern Wisconsin there are 197 stores that have donation boxes. These Canisters are in drive-thrus and inside on the counter. They’re small enough that it’s easy to overlook their impact. Your change might not seem like a whole lot going into one of those boxes, but when you add up everyone’s individual giving, the result is astounding.

Last year alone the collection boxes raised $443,232 for the Milwaukee House. This means we can keep more families close when their children are receiving medical treatment at our local hospitals. It means more programs that help guest families make memories.

That little gift is actually a big contribution to the families that stay at RMHC and it all comes from the extra change you decided not to carry in your cup holder or pocket. If everyone contributes a little, we could do so much more for families in need.

The next time you cruise through a McDonald’s drive-thru or head inside to grab dinner, take a look around for the donation box. We hope that when you see those little red boxes you understand your generosity makes a big difference. Your change makes a lasting impact and sometimes it’s good to recognize remarkable things come in small packages.

Play Milwaukee with kids

Kids Just Want to Play and Have Fun in Milwaukee

You are about to wrap up breakfast with the kids and they ask “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TODAY?” No need to waste precious family time on the internet looking for places to go to for family fun.  No need to worry if this place or that place is going to fulfill your expectations. It’s the Play Milwaukee deck of cards to the rescue. A deck of cards: each card represents a different place offering family fun.

Local educators, Julie Stephens and Louisa Marks, traveled around Milwaukee and chose 20 places for family fun. “The rule we used as we picked the 20 places is would we want to take our own kids here?” says Julie. Another problem for taking the whole family out is that it can become expensive super-fast. So each card offers a minimum of $10 discount to the place but the entire deck boasts a combined savings of over $400. WOW!!!! All of the great deals can be viewed at playyourcity.org

But wait, how come there are 21 cards in the deck? “Well, we didn’t want to forget the caregiver so we included a card to Neroli for some well-deserved parental TLC”.

Play Milwaukee is all about families having fun and spending time together. We are in awe of the services that Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin® offers to families of children spending time at local hospitals. We know that these services can only be offered if everyone does their part to raise funds for RMHC. “Julie and I are so honored to partner Play Milwaukee decks with RMHC and help them raise funds.” RMHC receives $10 from every Play Milwaukee deck sold. Buy your deck ONLINE. Use this link to take you directly to checkout https://www.playyourcity.org/store. In box that says Enter Coupon, type RMHC and then, click Apply.

Decks will also be available at the Tab Toss Day held on Saturday May 21st from 12-1:30pm at United Milwaukee Scrap. Enjoy a meet and greet with Ronald, live music, and special appearances from the Milwaukee Fire Department and Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department and so much more all while supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin.

 

Julie (left) and Louisa (right)

Julie Stephens and Louisa Marks have much in common even though at quite different stages in their lives. While Julie is the mother of young boys, Louisa’s an empty nester with 3 girls in college. Both women work as educators. Julie teaches psychology at a local university and Louisa was a resource teacher at an urban Milwaukee school. The idea of connecting families to fun in their community was born in a gym locker room after a workout. “Milwaukee has been such a great place for me to raise my girls,” says Louisa. Julie agrees that every family should get out and explore their town. Play Milwaukee was born out of the ladies’ love for Milwaukee and all the great places here that provide family fun. 

Thank You: Today, Tomorrow, and Always

Here at Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin, Volunteer Appreciation week is every week, but this week we want to give a special thanks to our volunteers for  devoting their  35,000 hours of service each year, to make the House a Home. Our 550+ volunteers’ positive spirit is motivating and inspiring to others, leaving a lasting impression on the people and communities that they work and live in. Volunteers partake in countless duties during their shifts always going above and beyond to make a difference in one way or another. Our volunteers help keep our mission alive by providing transportation to and from the hospital, doing office work or light housekeeping duties, making quilts for the guest rooms, gardening in the Secret Garden, supporting special events, cleaning and maintaining our kitchens, providing meals for the families and a variety of other duties. Here at the Ronald McDonald House we want to encourage more people to make service an integral part of their lives; understanding that our organization would not be possible without our valued volunteers.

To the volunteers all over the world: thank you for your service! For the people that would one day like to participate in this movement, there are countless volunteering opportunities available. We appreciate you for all you do! Here seven tips that make exceptional volunteers:

7 Tips That Make an Exceptional Volunteer:                                                                               

  • Energy
  • Commitment
  • Integrity
  • Reliability
  • Compassion
  • Communication
  • Trust

I was very grateful when I received the good news that I was chosen as the marketing intern at Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin,. This opportunity was very important to me because I was impressed by the building, what the organization stood for: trust, integrity, compassion and loyalty which I believe are all core values that make an exceptional organization. With these core values in place I will have the ability to maximize my skills, knowledge and develop leadership experience, along with passionate professionalism which will take me far into my future career endeavors. As a student at Mount Mary University I’m look forward to gaining experience that will keep me on the right track  for success.

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Happy Earth Day !! Earthlings

Today we want to celebrate “Earth Day” and the importance of being good stewards of our planet and its resources and recommit ourselves to conservation and taking care of this place we call home- planet earth.

Just as important as it is to give to each other, it is equally important to also think about how we give back to “Mother Nature.” We want to continue to have plentiful and rich soil to invigorate and nourish the plants in our Secret Garden. Our beautiful beds of flowers and plants depend on the quality of the Earth’s foundation. Fresh green, clean pastures are important to the quality of the air we breathe every day. It is also important to our friendly House dog McNugget while he runs and gets his daily dose of outside fun.

Our guest families are able to enjoy a breath of fresh air while sitting outside on our patio and can connect with nature while helping plant flowers or vegetables in one of our raised beds. We are proud to be “The House that Love built” and we continue to show our appreciation and love for our planet everyday by conserving energy, nurturing our secret garden, and recycling.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the founder of “Earth Day” was Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. In 1963 he convinced President John F. Kennedy to take a national speaking tour to discuss conservation issues, which gave him the opportunity to teach about environmental issues on April 22, 1970. He wanted people to be aware of the importance of keeping the planet healthy and clean.

We Celebrate our Volunteers

In 1974, President Nixon established National Volunteer Week, an initiative encouraging Americans to give back to their community through service. Every year National Volunteer Week is recognized by our elected officials throughout the United States.

As the Volunteer Management and Family Services Intern and a volunteer Office Assistant, I work closely with Heather, the Volunteer Services Director. Heather oversees over 550+ volunteers most of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting during my time here at the House. Each individual who volunteers here plays a valuable role and I have learned so much from all of you! Your passion for the Ronald McDonald House really shines through and serves as such an inspiration to myself and the families who stay with us. Fourteen to 101 year olds volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House giving their time and talents. Our volunteers help keep our mission alive by providing transportation to and from the hospital, office work, light housekeeping duties, making quilts for the guest rooms, gardening in the Secret Garden, supporting special events, cleaning and maintaining our kitchens, providing meals for the families and a variety of other duties. As an Office Assistant I knew how I was impacting the House, now that I have been interning here since February I have seen all of the different roles come together to help this House run and serve our families to the best of its ability. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful organization and work alongside each and every one of you.

I have been fortunate enough to talk with many of you and it amazes me how devoted our volunteers truly are!  The dedication of our volunteers is fascinating; some have been with us for nearly 32 years, volunteering since our doors opened. One of my favorite things to learn about while working alongside other volunteers is what sparked their interest to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. Some are volunteering because they have personally stayed or have a family member who has stayed at a Ronald McDonald House; others want to become part of a mission they feel drawn to.

It is with heartfelt appreciation that I thank each and every one of our volunteers who give so generously of their time, compassion, and warmth. We would not be where we are today without all of our dedicated volunteers!

Erika Jakubic is a senior in UW Oshkosh’s College of Education and Human Services and the Spring 2016 Volunteer Management and Family Services Intern. She will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services Leadership. She has been volunteering at the House as an office assistant since 2014 and she is excited to share all that the House has to offer in addition to being able to excel in the Human Services field!